Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, including this area’s congressmen Tim Murphy and Bill Shuster, have voted 56 times to either repeal the Affordable Care Act or to gut or restrict it. Though a repeal of the act, also known as Obamacare, is highly unlikely under the current......
With the possible exception of the exhibitionists who populate reality TV, most people are inclined to hold the secrets of their immediate family fairly close. Unless we’ve set an appointment with Dr. Phil, few of us are willing to divulge details of marriages gone wrong, children gone rogue, sibling rivalries that persist into middle age or any of the other common blemishes on domestic life.
But when the conversation turns to our ancestors, it tends to be a little more no-holds-barred. We might want to sweep contemporary family feuds under the rug, but when it comes to folks several generations removed, most of us are willing to open the closet doors wide and gleefully let the skeletons rattle out.
Want to hear about the drunken great-great-great-uncle who got trampled by a horse when he got too liquored up? Well, sit right down. How about the great-grandad who is said to have broken bread with Klansmen in his younger days? Let me tell you all about it. And what about the other great-grandad who fought for the Kaiser in World War I?
It’s easy to understand why most people are willing to gab so readily about ancestors whose antics were, to say the least, colorful. They’re so far removed from the present day – chances are we never met any of these people – that they don’t really reflect on us in any meaningful way. And, let’s face it, having a few scalawags, scoundrels, rascals and reprobates in the family tree makes us seem a little more intriguing. How exciting would our bloodline be if it consisted entirely of sturdy yeoman farmers who rose with the sun and peacefully went to their reward after a lifetime of quiet toil?
Ben Affleck, the movie actor and director, is apparently the only person in America who doesn’t feel this way.
The latest embarrassing revelation to emerge from the hacking of Sony Pictures’ email accounts last year is that Affleck asked the producers of a PBS-TV series that looks at ancestry to omit the fact that he had a relative, many generations removed, who owned slaves. Unfortunately, the producers of “Finding Your Roots,” on which Affleck appeared for one episode, agreed, even though it violated PBS policy. Affleck since issued a contrite statement, saying the thought of a slave-holding forebear “left a bad taste in my mouth,” and the ombudsman of PBS is launching an investigation, noting “any serious program about genealogy, especially dealing with celebrities, cannot leave out a slave-owning ancestor. It also seems clear from the emails that (host Henry Louis Gates) knew the stakes involved in terms of PBS credibility, yet went with the advice from the Sony executive to squelch the factoid about a slave-owning ancestor and try to keep it quiet.”
This kerfuffle doesn’t make PBS look good, and it makes Affleck look even less so. Sure, celebrities are tirelessly interested in promulgating a favorable public image, and hire platoons of publicists, stylists, nutritionists, physical trainers and other handlers to position themselves in the best light.
Did Affleck believe that something a forefather did a couple of centuries ago would tarnish his golden glow? Honestly, why would anyone outside the Affleck family care all that much? Chances are, had it stayed in the program, it would have passed unremarked, and certainly would have generated vastly less mortification than the current mess.
As Mary Beth Williams pointed out on the Salon website last week, Affleck has more reason to be embarrassed by some of the movies he has appeared in than any slave owners dotting his lineage.
Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers as compiled by the Associated Press:
Twice recently, the Supreme Court chastised the U.S. Department of Justice for stretching criminal laws beyond their rational application in order to secure a conviction. Beyond the consequences for individual defendants, these decisions sent a welcome message to prosecutors that they must not uproot a statute from its clear context in order to get their man (or woman).
Sometimes, however, prosecutors are aided in their overreach by laws that are so vaguely written it’s not clear exactly what conduct is being targeted. On Monday, the Supreme Court heard a challenge to one such law, which allowed the government to define illegal possession of a gun as a “violent felony” justifying an extended prison term.
The exceedingly unattractive defendant in this case, Samuel Johnson, is a white supremacist from Minnesota who pleaded guilty in 2012 to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Under the Armed Career Criminal Act, he was sentenced to a 15-year prison term because he had three prior “violent felonies” on his record. Johnson conceded two of his previous convictions, for robbery and attempted robbery, were violent felonies. But he disputed the government’s decision to classify a third conviction, for possessing a short-barreled shotgun, as a “violent felony.”
The notion the mere possession of an illegal firearm is a violent act defies the dictionary and common understanding, and Johnson initially argued – plausibly – that it was not.
As Johnson’s lawyer told the court, the law’s vagueness “is proven by this court’s inability after repeated efforts to discern a meaningful and replicable interpretive framework that will guide lower courts.” It’s time for the court to send Congress back to the drawing board.
Five years ago this week, Mississippians and millions of other people in the states of the Gulf South began watching as flames soared and oil gushed from broken pipes deep underneath the Deepwater Horizon production platform operated and leased by BP, the giant energy company.
Eleven people were killed by the explosion, and in months following, the oil gushing from the well’s infrastructure spilled 4.25 million barrels. It became the biggest marine oil spill in American history.
Billions were spent on cleaning up the Gulf, the shoreline and every other place touched by the raw, toxic oil, but even a $14 billion cleanup effort was unable to prevent long-term environmental damage. BP has been held responsible for close to $40 billion in fines with an additional $16 billion due under provisions of the Clean Water Act.
Mississippi, once again, has been generously dealt with by a private-sector entity responsible for damage and by the federal government’s determination to help make recovery possible.
If you’ve ever listened closely to a broadcast of a golf match or a baseball, football or basketball game, you have probably heard a bewildering recitation of statistics, many of which contribute little to understanding or appreciation what is being watched....
School districts, parents and others who sued the state on grounds that the commonwealth’s system of financing education is failing kids in less-affluent areas have suffered a setback, but there are still opportunities to address the very real problem....
Plenty of negative attention has been brought to McGuffey High School since some of its students apparently staged an “Anti-Gay Day” protest last Thursday. If there’s a silver lining to be had, it’s this: Discrimination and outright violence against gays and lesbians......